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Career Advice

Types of graphic design careers

Are you interested in a career that combines creativity with solid earning power? Graphic design might just be for you.

Choose a career in graphic design and you might find yourself helping shape brand identity, building user experience and forging a company’s artistic presence. A graphic design career opens up opportunities to explore many different roles and may lead to work in a huge variety of disciplines. You might head down a traditional route as an illustrator, or move into a career in UI or UX design.

As a designer, your job will be to create a strong visual presence that helps a business to stand out from the crowd. If you love design and have an instinct for marketing, a career as a graphic designer could be ideal.

What types of graphic design career are there?

It goes without saying that graphic design covers a lot of areas. There are many graphic design styles. You might have a clear idea of what you want to use your artistic skill for, or you might not. Don’t worry. We’ve put together a round-up of the types of graphic design careers available so you can see how your role might build and how you can use the knowledge and skills you gain from your studies with UCD Professional Academy.

1. Advertising Designer

This is one of the first areas that springs to mind for many people thinking about a career in graphic design – it’s a wide field that uses a range of different communication skills.

As a marketing designer, you’ll bring together your skills in graphic design, photography and storytelling to create visuals for a company. You’re likely to create a suite of adverts that can be adapted for different media including billboards, magazines, and web pages. This means the brand identity stays the same, and the message is strong for consumers.

You’ll need a solid understanding of design and marketing, and a graphic design qualification is a great first step. You’ll also need to develop your skills in responding to feedback – advertising designers are often part of a larger team who respond to the creative arts director.

2. Photo editor

Real-life images are a photo editor's starting point. At a minimum, you’ll enhance and adjust light and colour to create a beautiful image. You’ll also alter images – perhaps the colour of a dress, or by adding in company branding or messaging. Maybe you’ll even work on restoring

As a photo editor, you’ll need expert-level knowledge of programs like Adobe Photoshop and you’ll play an important role in making sure images are an accurate representation of the final product. A sound understanding of graphic design will help you work with the rest of your team to build a coherent brand identity. A strong portfolio is essential to demonstrate your skills.

3. Brand identity designer

From golden arches to little apples, brand identity is the start of a conversation with the consumer. As a brand identity designer, you are responsible for all aspects of this conversation. You'll think about the colours that best represent your brand, consider typography and images as well as key elements like logos. You’ll be able to understand target markets and how to use colour and shape to connect with customers. You’ll also understand the tricky world of copyright and trademarks and how to make your identity unique.

Your starting point is a graphic design qualification. You’ll build a portfolio that shows top-notch illustration skills as well as a solid understanding of how to connect with your market. You’ll need to show you can get the conversation between a company and consumer off to a great start. You may choose to work as a freelance logo designer or take a role within a larger company.

4. Fashion graphic designer

Graphics on clothing have been a trend for a long time - and it’s a trend that isn’t going anywhere. You may be using existing identity tags, like logos or brand lettering to enhance various items of clothing, or you may be creating standalone images that work alongside a brand identity. You’ll need to connect what the company execs want to say with what the consumer wants to wear. This is a real cutting edge role and a chance to have a big impact on company success.

You’ll need to be proficient in CAD design and able to use colour in a creative way. You’ll be able to work within the constraints set out by the garment and be able to create something that people want to wear. You’ll need a qualification in graphic design, and to be able to demonstrate your skills through your portfolio. It can be useful to have taken an internship to gain experience.

5. Packaging designer

This is another of those conversation starter roles, but with a super-practical twist. As a packaging designer, you have to create something that has an immediate impact on your customer. You also have to create something that’s fit for purpose. Your packaging needs to protect goods during transportation, keep everything in place and look great on the shelf. You’ll need to communicate key messages about the product too, like how to use it and any precautions to take.

You’ll need a deep understanding of fonts and images and how they connect with consumers. You’ll also need to combine product knowledge with consumer appeal to have maximum impact on the shelf. A qualification in graphic design is desirable for this role along with a good understanding of the way packaging design works for the consumer.

6. Creative art director

A creative art director draws together talent to create a strong image for a brand. This is a high-level role that heads up a team of people. As creative art director, you’ll help your client communicate the key aspects of their company. You’ll use your own skills, and engage the skills of others to work across a range of media.

You’ll need to be an expert in your field. Most creative art directors have a solid graphic design or marketing background and have a sound understanding of how to communicate with customers and company owners. You’ll be able to understand your client's vision for their brand and inspire your team to bring it to life.

7. Web designer

As a web designer, you’re responsible for the “shop window” of a business. Your job is to create an inspiring, user-friendly experience. All aspects of the page will fall into your remit, from the graphics and appearance to details like drop-down menus, navigation, and page structure. If you have skills in coding and programming, you’ll take care of the entire development. If your skills are specialised on the graphics side, you’ll work alongside those with the skills to bring your design to life.

At the very least you’ll need a graphic design qualification. If you have sound knowledge of programming and the tech side you’ll be in great demand, and a good portfolio will be invaluable. You’ll also need the ability to work as part of a wider team. Web designers often need to take their cues from the marketing team or creative arts director so that the brand identity is strong across all outlets.

8. Multimedia designer

You’re likely to combine a flair for design with computer skills to create animated images and long-form videos. You’ll use images to tell the brand story through characterisation and scene-setting. You could use your skills in game design, set design and TV or film making as well as bring the vision of the ad designer to life.

You’ll need a flair for creativity and a desire to delve into your imagination to come up with images that connect with your audience. You’ll need a qualification that shows a strong grounding in visual arts as well as technical skills in using CAD systems and other software.

9. UI designer

UI stands for User Interface. This is the nuts and bolts of a website and is crucial to creating an experience that customers enjoy and return to. A UI designer puts a stop to annoying web pages, clunky ads and sites that just don’t work. You’re literally lowering customer stress levels – or at least not increasing them.

You’ll need a solid skill set for this role. As well as an outstanding instinct for graphic design, you’ll need to understand the technical details that make a website work. You’ll also need to understand how customers might use the site, and how to make the experience as painless as possible. Team skills are essential – you’ll be working with ideas from marketing teams and web designers as well as harnessing your own input. 

10. UX Designer

User Experience is king when it comes to successful business. As a User Experience designer, you’ll have an instinct for what makes a product, webpage, or service work for the consumer. You’ll also have a strong skill set that can bring this instinct to life. UX design is common in webpage production, but you may also find this type of role in gaming and computing. Anything that offers interaction, from cars to cooking appliances offers a User Experience and your role is to make this as enjoyable and effective as possible.

This is another type of graphic design role that needs expertise in multiple areas. You’ll need to be able to identify weak spots in the User Experience and understand how to put them right. Qualifications in graphic design and programming will be useful, and you may wish to pursue a dedicated UX qualification.

FAQs

How hard is it to pursue a career in graphic design?

The key skills for a graphic design career are creative thinking, design, and a flair for visuals. Learn more about the difference Graphic Designers and Visual Designers. If you are weak in these areas, then this career path will be challenging. That said, time and dedication can help you train your skills, and the type of course we offer is a great place to start.

How much do graphic designers earn?

As with many careers, there are a wide range of Graphic Design Salaries. Entry-level roles can bring a salary of around €30,000 per year, while mid-range roles attract around €37,000 and a senior graphic designer can earn up to €67,000, according to Indeed. At the highest level of Creative Director, you could earn €70,000 or more. 

How long does it take to become a graphic designer?

Learning the key aspects and skills needed for graphic design can take years. It goes without saying that you'll need experience alongside any qualifications and you'll need to build a varied portfolio to demonstrate this.

Conclusion

Graphic design is a varied and exciting career. It offers a way to use your creative skills as well as offering good opportunities for career progression. The range of roles means a range of possibilities and whichever path your choose a course like the ones a Course in Graphic Design at UCD Professional Academy is a great place to start your journey or upskill your existing experience.